TransformSustainability agenda › Green buildings

Green buildings

We are builders. We want better communities, housing, schools, jobs—and all that will require changes to our built environment, both new development and redevelopment.

We plan to meet our needs with affordable, high-performance buildings that use far less materials and energy than conventional buildings, while being healthy, delightful places for the occupants. We dare to imagine that our buildings can be like living organisms that give back to the earth more than they take. And we are extending our design intelligence to place our buildings together on great streets and public spaces—the public realm that enlivens the best cities.

Pioneering green building<br />The Lewis Environmental Studies Center at Oberlin College generates its own power, treats its wastewater, and shows students how to reduce environmental impacts.House without a furnace<br />The PNC SmartHome, built by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History in 2011, showed how insulation, virtually air-tight construction, and passive solar design could enable a house to use about 90 percent less heating energy than conventional houses. Green restoration<br />The Cleveland Environmental Center in the Ohio City neighborhood showed how an old, vacant building could be brought back to life and made much more energy efficient in the process. EcoVillage<br />The Cleveland EcoVillage Townhomes in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood demonstrated innovative building techniques that saved materials and achieved superior energy efficiency.Transit-oriented district<br />Cleveland's Shaker Square enables environmentally friendly lifestyles with transit service, a lively commercial center, and lots of housing within walking distance. Unsustainable trend<br />Big houses sprawling into the countryside east of Cleveland, a form of development that maximizes land consumption and energy use.
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Goals for green building

Green building is about building better buildings—better and healthier for the occupants, better and less expensive for the owners and operators, better and less demanding of the environment. We desperately need such buildings. Buildings account for nearly half of our energy use—and half of the greenhouse gas emissions—in Northeast Ohio. And buildings are where we spend most of our time. So improving the performance and livability of our buildings must be a major part of the region’s sustainability agenda.

We can see four main ways to get there:

  • Transitioning buildings: Just as our vehicle fleet turns over in time, buildings turn over as they are remodelled or built new. It takes longer for buildings, but with the right programs, incentives, and focused attention we can make every building a high-performance building by 2050. The goal should be a 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector. In the future, it will be unusual to pay an energy bill because most buildings will be net producers of energy.
  • District solutions: Some solutions happen best at a district scale, not within an individual building. So we will develop extremely efficient and cost-effective district heating, cooling, and energy systems. Building in compact districts is also the best way to meet transportation needs. It’s about designing buildings to contribute to the overall sustainability of a community.
  • Frugal behavior: It’s amazing how much energy is wasted because people aren’t aware of how much they are consuming. So we greatly increase educational programs and provide better feedback to help everyone conserve energy and save money.
  • Building to restore: Ultimately, we don’t want buildings that are merely less environmentally harmful. We want buildings that are restorative—living buildings that grow from a place like a tree and enhance the conditions for life. This is the future of building and architecture. We need to lead the transformation.

We can do this. There are already inspiring examples of green buildings to learn from in Northeast Ohio, from the Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College to the PNC SmartHome built by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. And there is a great community of people working to advance the field.

How to help

In the coming months, GreenCityBlueLake staff will be working with community partners to outline the steps--programs, policies and incentives-- to accelerate the transition of our buildings.

What do you think are the key things that need to change? Contribute your ideas here.

Updated 10/10/12

In the future, the houses we live in and the offices we work in will be designed to function like living organisms, specifically adapted to place and able to draw all of their requirements for energy and water from the surrounding sun, wind and rain. The architecture of the future will draw inspiration, not from the machines of the 20th century, but from the beautiful flowers that grow in the landscape that surrounds them.
— Bob Berkebile and Jason McLennan

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